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Let’s Go Surfin’ Now: Fear and Loathing in the Blogosphere

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It is often said that blogging is about the exchange of ideas, the conversations. Even though it is very similar to journalism in most respects, the way that information is conveyed from one source to another is a new and interesting dynamic that cannot be synthesized by the “old media,” which mostly operates in a one-way fashion. All one needs to do to understand how the exchange of ideas has been revolutionized is to click on a link to one blog or another and see where it leads. And so, off we go, with copying and pasting links being sort of like collecting souvenirs…

Surfing from my blogroll, I tuned in to The American Street (because it was at the top of my blogroll, having been the most recently updated blog therein) where Kevin Hayden, in a post called “Lancing with Wolves,” quotes Lance Mannion‘s post, “The Big Fix,” which appears to have been inspired, in part, by TMFTML’s April 19, 2005 post entitled, “SHIT MEMO”, which is a rather imaginative stream of consciousness piece about stream of consciousness blogging. I contributed a few comments along the way (follow the links, if you want to see what I said), introducing myself to the locals, as it were…

TMFTML wrote, “Every article you’ve seen in the news lately about bloggers refers specifically to a certain subset of bloggers: Let’s call them polibloggers. These are the angry white guys who crapped their pants in fear when the Twin Towers came down and decided that the new climate of intolerance-masquerading-as-patriotism would allow them to give voice to the blatant racism and hatred of the lower classes that they were previously forced to keep in check due to societal norms and basic politeness.”

To which Mr. Mannion added his thoughts, “It’s a given that the people most terrorized by the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were right wing columnists, pundits, and bloggers. Children who lost parents in the attacks have faced life since that day with more courage, hope, mercy, charity, and forebearance than these cowardly lions who have been scaring themselves witless every day since by pulling their own tails.”

Now if I had just read Mr. Hayden’s post and left it at that, without clicking on the link to Mr. Mannion’s original post, I would have missed that the quotation on The American Street was actually Mr. Mannion’s segue into the shifting politics of liberal, moderate and apolitical people who were scared into the right wing by the terrible events of September 11, 2001, “But it wasn’t just the already yellow-bellied young conservative types who were so frightened by 9/11. Some liberals, many moderates, a whole slew of people who espoused no particular politics on September 10, 2001, became unhinged by fright. Dennis Miller is one example. Roger L. Simon is another.” as well as an interesting, yet sadly accurate, examination of the effects of the lure of easy fame that is often found in the practice of pandering to “frightened, bloodthirsty Right Wing loons,” as Mr. Mannion calls them. I also would not have found out that Mr. Mannion had previously quoted the same TMFTML post in an April 26, 2005 post called, “Morning Gazette–Obligatory blogger navel-gazing edition”, which included a link to the astute observations of Chris Nolan of Politics from Left to Right. And so, I traveled on…

Ms. Nolan’s March 13, 2005 post, Today’s Top Ten is partly a response to Steven Levy’s March 21, 2005 Newsweek article, “Blogging Beyond the Men’s Club”, which purports to answer the question: “Since anyone can write a Weblog, why is the blogosphere dominated by white males?” but doesn’t, really (so much for that little side trip). However, Ms. Nolan’s effort at answering that same question bore some real fruit, even if it was intended as “Reasons why people – er, men – wonder why there are ‘no’ women bloggers.” Let’s take this site in for a moment, shall we? Perhaps we’ll learn something about…

  • How blogging was first taken up by “techies,” most of whom are men who apparently prefer to keep linking to like-minded men. Yes, that’s painfully obvious, but it is nonetheless important to keep noting because it raises awareness and could possibly inspire more diversity in the blogosphere, thereby rendering such commentaries obsolete.
  • Ana Maria Cox of Wonkette, who has built a big audience in the new media using old-fashioned methodology: S-E-X — well, writing gossip about who’s doing it with whom, at least. And it works because the MSM apparently thinks of Ms. Cox as “…one girl blogger in their rolodex [and] they don’t think they need any more.”
  • Big Media’s coverage of the blogosphere is mostly technical and political and most technical and political writers are men who prefer to deal with the “top-tier” bloggers who are mostly men who write about technology and politics.
  • With over 9 million blogs — and counting– out there (and that’s just the blogs that are watched by Technorati), the blogosphere is really getting huge and finding an audience is getting increasingly harder. But we must also consider how the audience itself is growing, creating more opportunities. Except for the apparent “Old Boys Network” in which the MSM keeps sending readers to the same prominent blogs, feeding a small, circular system and making it difficult for less well-known bloggers to break into the “Big Leagues.”
  • Blogs are a very new medium whose methodologies aren’t quite solidified yet. Apparently, the blogosphere is still evolving into something, but nobody is sure of exactly what that might be.

Well, here’s my hypothesis, a prediction of sorts (maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong, only time will tell): Someday, in the not-too-distant future, we will no longer have radios, televisions, telephones, computers, CD/MP3 players, DVRs, etc, as separate components. They will be merged into one interface — a screen, a pair of speakers and input devices for transmitting commands, text, sound and pictures — and The Media will simply be made up of the people who exchange, duplicate and spread information. And if that comes true, then future historians will likely surmise that blogs, bloggers and the blogosphere were the primordial soup from which the new New Media arose.

In the meantime, I think I will just continue to enjoy the conversations and, of course, the debates, which is why I blog in the first place.

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About Margaret Romao Toigo